FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 4TH FEBRUARY, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MANCHESTER UNITED 4 (1)
Ronaldo (pen), 45
Referee: - Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: - 36,146
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora (sub Ghaly, 55), Malbranque; Defoe (sub Keane, 55), Berbatov
Subs unused: - Cerny; Rocha; Murphy
Booked: - Chimbonda, Keane
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Van Der Saar; Neville (Capt.), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo (sub Park, 68), Carrick, Scholes, Giggs (sub O’Shea, 79); Larsson, Rooney (sub Saha, 64)
Subs not used: - Kuszczak; Heinze
Booked: - Vidic, Rooney, Larsson
Having competed well with the Premiership leaders until the last minute of the first half, when Ronaldo won a dubious penalty under the challenge of Malbranque and Lee, Spurs quickly folded early in the second half, and suffered their third consecutive home Premiership defeat, and their worst defeat since May 11th, 2003, when a Glenn Hoddle side capitulated against Blackburn. This will surely go down as a dark day in Martin Jol’s reign, as questions about his ability to lead Spurs to success become more and more prevalent.
We all knew that there was a tough task ahead of us, and once again, when we heard the news that Jermaine Jenas had not even made the bench, the odds against us were getting worse. Sir Alex Ferguson had absolutely no injury worries whatsoever, and Spurs would need to be at their very best to even come out of today’s game with a point. They started so well, with Malbranque and Lee doubling up to good effect upon Ronaldo. Malbranque stole the ball off the United winger twice in the first few minutes, and it took a considerable time before the Portuguese star got into the game. I know it sounds like sour grapes, but another factor in United’s victory was surely the refereeing of Mark Clattenburg, forever remembered as the man who missed Pedro Mendes goal at Old Trafford., who seemed to operate a different set of rules for those dressed in red.
Paul Scholes got away with “words” in those early minutes, for a foul on Lennon, but Clattenburg also failed to book Scholes later in the game for a challenge which surely would have brought a card for a white-shirted player.
Spurs had a decent start, and without testing Van Der Saar, created enough to make you think they might give United a stern test. Malbranque was very much a part of the early Spurs attacks, linking with Berbatov well. It was however, United who had the first notable effort, and that came from Michael Carrick (who had been given a mixed reception), who thankfully fired a 25 yard shot way over Robinson’s goal. Carrick then had a header saved (note it was only parried) by Robinson from a corner, and Ronaldo fired over before holding his head in his hands in alarm.
Wayne Rooney was fortunate to escape with a warning from the sympathetic referee, for a 25th minute challenge on Michael Dawson. United claimed a penalty after Gardner challenged Larsson in the box, but after a signal from his linesman, the referee waved play-on. Gary Neville & Co won no fans in the home section for their persistent haranguing of the official, not just in the immediate aftermath, but when the play next stopped too.
Spurs best move to date came after 32 minutes, when Zokora was involved in the build up, and Huddlestone threaded a ball through to Berbatov, whose shot from an angle on the right side of the box was saved by the ever-efficient United keeper. Rooney did get a card for a foul on Lee, but then he hit a long distance shot wide. Just as Spurs were looking to go in on level terms, for once Ronaldo did squeeze into the box, and with Malbranque and Lee at his ankles, he took little persuasion to go down, and remained remarkably cool when the referee awarded the spot-kick. The thing is, if the challenge had been from behind (which it could only be), then why was there no yellow card? Ronaldo converted the penalty he had won with aplomb, and Spurs went in with a deep psychological scar.
Manchester United came out and played at high tempo from the re-start. Robinson had to save a Vidic shot, then a Carrick header, conceding a corner, taken by Carrick, from which Vidic headed home. 6 minutes later, the game was well beyond Spurs reach, when Ronaldo’s low cross/shot from the right was tapped in from close range by Paul Scholes. Martin Jol replaced Defoe with Keane, and Zokora with Ghaly, putting Lennon on the left, but it was all to no avail, as Larsson teed up a Rooney shot that went just outside Robinson’s left post.
The dismay of Spurs fans was complete when Berbatov got goalside of Rio Ferdinand in the box, with a shot on from a tight angle. Ferdinand appeared to clip him down, but clearly Mr Clattenburg believed that Berbatov had fallen voluntarily! Berbatov got another chance from a Huddlestone ball, and struggled to get control of the ball, before hitting a shot that Van Der Saar saved well.
Now, Sir Alex Ferguson felt he could rest the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo, and when Robbie Keane got a yellow card for what seemed an innocuous challenge upon Ferdinand, the home fans were convinced that the referee was in the pay of the visitors! Our ignominy was complete when Giggs received a pass from Saha, and hit a shot that beat Robinson all ends up, going inside his left post. The United fans taunted him with the “England’s Number One” chant.
Van Der Saar made a brave save from a Robbie Keane effort, that must have smashed into the goalkeeper’s face, leading to a long delay. It shames me to relate the boos and jeers of some of the home support, when clearly the keeper was seriously injured. Van Der Saar has a suspected broken nose, and as United had used their three substitutes, John O’Shea put on the green shirt, and in fact made a couple of decent saves, one from Robbie Keane, when O’Shea advanced outside his area.
To be honest, it’s hard to see where Spurs’ next win is coming from. My prediction is that it will occur on March 17th, at home to Watford, but don’t count on it!
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